Gary Bruce discusses eminent domain in the context of recent intentional government flooding which occurred in Texas during hurricane Harvey. When the government effectively takes one’s property for the greater good, the government owes just compensation to those whose property was taken. Texas citizens whose property was flooded in order to save other areas are using eminent domain to recover for their losses.
Gary explains that this might be easier than recovering via one’s homeowner’s insurance, because a homeowner’s policy may not cover flooding or there may be some sort of natural disaster exception. If you have any questions about government takings please call the Law Offices of Gary Bruce at 706-596-1446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a meeting and a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.
Narrator: Now, answering your questions about the law and legal issues this is Legal Break with attorney, Gary Bruce.
Maureen: Today we’re talking about the flooding in Houston. Recently, the government intentionally flooded some areas in order to save other areas. I guess to head off potential worse damage. As a homeowner, if I’m in the one area that they intentionally flooded, do I have any recourse against that?
Gary: Well, that’s I think what’s come up. That’s what the topic really has become, alright, is who are these people to make a claim against; the homeowner’s insurance? That’s the first place you go I guess. And then, do I have a claim then also against the government? Was this a condemnation of my property for the benefit of all? So that’s the kind of the theory, and I think it’s pretty clever. They took my property for the benefit of the bigger hole. Which is, you know, what they do when they condemn land for a pipeline, or expand our roadways, and that kind of thing. So, the government then owes just compensation for what’s been taken, but they do have the power of eminent domain.
They’ve argued this was a de facto eminent domain condemnation of property, which might be easier to deal with than getting it out of your homeowner’s policy. Because the homeowners don’t necessarily cover flooding, you know, and any alleged act of God or all the defenses that come up. So you bring an action against the government saying you took my land. So it’s interesting, it’s clever, and it may work.
Maureen: So, let’s see well how would a decision like this maybe affect future? I know these kind of government deals affect future disaster relief.
Gary: Well, I think see, I think it will have an impact on decision making. But I don’t know, because how do you how do you question or criticize someone who makes a decision using the best information they have at the time. You know, we have a doctrine in kind of car wreck things, called sudden emergency. If you make a decision to pull to the left and you should have pulled to the right and hindsight says, “if you pull to the right nothing would have happened.” But you didn’t have time to make that decision, then you’re excused from liability.
Now you can’t put yourself in the position to create your own emergency, but if it’s a sudden emergency a deer jumps out, or something happens, and you make a decision that turns out to be the wrong one, then you may have a defense. And so, I think that maybe partially if they claim negligence, you know, you could say whether it’s the city official didn’t do anything negligent, but it was still a government taking. So, I don’t know it may end up changing the way people approach flooding cases.
Maureen: They very well might. So, interesting topic.
Gary: It is interesting. It’s interesting how it’s evolved from Katrina. Katrina was not really a man-made decision, those were failures, there was negligence in the design of dikes. So, we see the evolution of law.
Maureen: Yeah, thank you so much for joining us today, Gary. Looking forward to seeing you on the very next, Legal Break.